This question required an email to Julia Wickard, state director of the Indiana Farm Service Agency, to verify. Press releases are typically accurate, and this one was. But when USDA makes a change this significant, you want to be sure you're reporting the right news.
As recently as last week we reported that if you gained release to make hay on your Conservation Reserve Program acres from your local FSA office, you could use it yourself or give it away. However, you couldn't sell it.
Wickard verified that, in his announcement last week, USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack granted the authority to not only use the hay for yourself, but to sell it if you don't have livestock or don't need the hay.
Wickard still urges anyone considering doing so to check with their county FSA office first. Make sure the forage that you intend to cut and bale is on a qualified practice that allows you to do so. Obtain a release from the local office before you proceed.
No explanation was given as to why Vilsack made the change. However, it's obvious that hay supplies are tight. The first cutting was good in most of Indiana and quality of the second cutting was good, but there wasn't much volume in most cases. Without irrigation or chance rains, there may not be further cuttings.
Chris Parker, Morgan County Extension Ag Educator, and author of Forage Notes in Indiana Prairie Farmer magazine, is a strong believer in pulling samples of forage before you feed it, and having it analyzed in a commercial lab for protein, energy, fiber and relative feed value. That helps you decide what the best class of livestock would be for eating the hay.
Forage testing will be extremely important for any hay baled off CRP land. The hay is likely to contain some dead material from earlier in the season. You may also need to keep an eye out for poisonous weeds that could be growing on CRP land.